Sisters Amanda and Madison Engrassia, both 14 and students in Barbara Tubello’s class at East Islip Middle School, ran their own neighborhood collection this year to donate items to American troops in Afghanistan.
One man who was particularly touched by the Engrassia sisters’ efforts was Terence D'Alesandro, a gunnery sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps whose unit had been the recipient of extensive donations from the East Islip school community. ”There are lot of adults who could learn a lesson from these girls,” said D’Alesandro, now a Marines drill instructor in San Diego, Calif.
“When you’re deployed you miss home because you’re human,” added Sgt. D’Alesandro. “As a Marine, you are a warrior and there’s nothing you’d rather do than be with your fellow Marines and fight for your country. However, the human side gets you when you least expect it, and mail call is one of those times. I don’t care how hard you are or how combat-experienced you are, getting a package from back home turns combat-hardened Marines into little boys at Christmas. What these girls did, even though they weren’t there to see it, was make a Marine’s day in Afghanistan by giving him a box to open when he may not have gotten mail in weeks. I’ve been ‘that Marine’ a bunch of times myself, and you sit down on your sleeping bag and open up the package, and you feel like someone back home ‘gets it.’ It’s not about the war or why we are there…it’s about the Marines on the ground, five thousand miles away from home, who are simply doing their job in brutal conditions. These girls reminded them of sanity, normalcy and what America is really about. God bless them and all of those Americans who can separate the war from the warrior and who, whether they know someone over there or not, can spend time doing something for an anonymous Marine just because they care about making him smile in a combat zone.”